9 St John Street

John Hand QC has been head of chambers at 9 St John Street in Manchester since 1988 and in his years of service he has never had a year quite like this one.

Chambers head:

John Hand QC
Senior clerks: Graham Livesey (crime) and Tony Morrissey (civil)
Director of finance and administration: Jo Kelly
Numbers of members (silks): 60 (11)
Total staff: 15
Key clients: Maidments Solicitors, JMW Solicitors, Brian Koffman & Co, Crown Prosecution Service, Pannone, Halliwells, Hammonds, Keoghs Solicitors
Recent cases: Harold Shipman Inquiry, Operation Greenway (importing firearms from Lithuania)

John Hand QC has been head of chambers at 9 St John Street in Manchester since 1988 and in his years of service he has never had a year quite like this one.

Three members made the QC grade in the recent round of silk appointments, which is as many as any regional set in the country.

Criminal specialist Nicholas Clarke, civil barrister Paul Gilroy and family practitioner Gillian Irving will boost QC numbers at the chambers this year.

“The three new silks will raise the profile of chambers and expand the range of services available to clients,” Hand says. “We haven’t had a family silk in chambers before.”

But the Carter reforms signalled a £100m-a-year cut in legal aid, heralding a turbulent time for the set’s criminal, employment and family practices.

“It’s a very difficult time with Carter. It’s difficult to stop people being slightly glum about it all,” says Hand.

Hand thinks specialisation will be key in the future. In all the set’s main practice areas – criminal, family, employment, personal injury and commercial law – there are opportunities to bring in more technical work. For example, within employment one could focus on health & safety, and within that practice area the set could build up a reputation for specialist work in the medical field.

“Employment’s becoming increasingly technical, some people will have to specialise in fields like discrimination and medical employment,” Hand explains.

But the danger for the chambers would be loss of unity, which Hand is at pains to avoid. He is cautious that, if the chambers became simply a building containing a lot of barristers working on specific points of law for particular industries, it would lose its harmony.

“The mentality of chambers is that we like to believe in ourselves as a coherent team,” says Hand.

During his 18 years as head of 9 St John Street, Hand has seen the set grow from around 24 to the 60 members it has today. And further growth is part of Hand’s strategy for the future. “Our plan has always been one of gradual expansion,” he says. “There’s a vogue for mergers at the moment, but our scheme is to grow gradually.”

Hand’s aim is to keep the set’s forward momentum going, but without resorting to big initiatives that erode the set’s tradition. Prominent figures such as Sir Christopher Rose, Lady Justice Smith and Mrs Justice Swift are all former members of chambers and remain constant reminders of the set’s tradition.

“I’ve been head of chambers since 1988, and it’s that sort of continuity that’s brought results,” says Hand.